No, I am not finished with The Portrait of a Lady yet but I feel as though I should write about the first twenty chapters I have read. A lot of things (sensible or not) have been going in and out of my mind while reading it and though not all may prove to be incisive, pouring them out is healthier than letting them rot in my capably forgetful mind.
One is always in danger of being too much of one thing thus we can say that one’s complacency is only transiently satisfied — this was what I was thinking while reading it. Isabel Archer’s unconstrained practice of liberty got me thinking if there ever was a brake to its profuseness; don’t get me wrong, I admire how she obliviously leaves a mark on people but sometimes I think there’s no harm in thinking (and acting) conventionally. Then again, if that were so, Isabel would not be the charming lady she was and the story would have taken a different turn which would have altered it drastically (haha!). The title itself constitutes ingenuity as well as deception because you can never verify the truthfulness of your opinion on a portrait unless you have gained first-class access to the painter’s whimsical basis for painting it. This may not be a universally-accepted fact but being a woman myself, we have the tendency to be fickle and this volatility addles the mind of one who perceives thereby heightening or decimating the initial perception. On the whole, I’m not really sure whether or not I like Isabel Archer. When I read her description on the back cover — a young American woman with looks, wit, and imagination — I instantly liked her and I even thought she could be comparable to Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice but alas, the portrait deceived me. 😉 Like I said, I am not done reading so my perception of her might lean on the brighter side along the way. Nevertheless, I agree with Isabel on some grounds — like this one, for example, a part of her discourse with one of her suitors, Lord Warburton:
“I’ve always been intensely determined to be happy, and I’ve often believed I should be. I’ve told people that; you can ask them. But it comes over me every now and then I can never be happy in an extraordinary way; not by turning away, by separating myself.”
“By separating yourself from what?”
“From life. From the usual chances and dangers, from what most people know and suffer.”
By the way, no value of casuistry could convince me to desecrate my copy of The Portrait of a Lady, tradition prevailed after all. And I have another reason to be happy, I finally found James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and since I did not want to leave my search in vain, I did not hesitate to pick it up. 🙂